Why are We Fond of “Little Women”?

Ye Eun (Eva) Choi

If you enjoy reading classic novels, at least one of the following titles of these North
American classics could be familiar to you: Daddy-Long-Legs, Anne of Green Gables, and
Little Women. You would have been growing up wondering who might be Judy Abbott’s
Daddy-Long-Legs, following through Anne Shirley’s life in Avonlea, and admiring the life
and relationship of the March sisters. These masterpieces have been consistently recreated in
collaboration with filmmakers, producing notable outcomes including the recent movie Little
(2019) starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson and Meryl Streep.

In case you are not familiar with Little Women, it started as an autobiographical novel written
by Louisa May Alcott. Although it is actually a tetralogy which was released from 1868 to
1886, the first two parts introduces the four sisters in the March family during the Civil War.
These sisters include charming and loving Margaret (Meg), feisty and clever Josephine (Jo),
innocent and kind Elizabeth (Beth), and their flamboyant youngest Amy. Although Alcott
chose Jo as the protagonist of the novel, her relationship with her sisters and their individual
character traits are as important as Jo’s own psychological process. The four sisters, all of
them having different personalities and personal interests, learn how to bond with each other
while facing obstacles in life. They learn how to sustain their lives and live the best out of it,
and how to take steps to become what they want to be.

The first two parts of the tetralogy, which is the most well-known part of the story discussing
the long transition of the adolescent March sisters becoming adults, shows how lives could be
sustained even when confronted with difficulties. The sister’s mother, Mrs. March – better
referred as ‘Marmee’ from her daughters – becomes a pivotal figure for the women of the
family to unite with each other, share consolation and help those who are suffering more than
themselves. Instead of establishing a conventional parent-child hierarchy, the March sisters
and Marmee form an unbreakable emotional bond with comfort and empathy. With this
progress, the sisters manage to discover and identify the good in their daily lives and attain
enough hope to wait for their loved ones. At the end of these two parts, the sisters find their
way to become the best of themselves. It is intriguing that the sisters are aspiring to maintain
their independent and individual identities, without being unwillingly bound by traditionally
expected gender roles as wives and mothers.

It is significant that Little Women emphasizes the role of the family in one’s psychological
progress, as it is now the best chance for people to surround themselves with their loved ones
and hold hands together against the pandemic obstacles lurking in this society. That is, Alcott
encourages the readers to be optimistic and try to find the good within their lives, which
would eventually lead them along the path to become what they genuinely aspire to be.